Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

Not sure if I have a problem with the bridge setting on my bouzouki ?. When I fix the capo and I strum each string, the note readout on the capo shows 4-5 strokes higher from the green spot.
I have a moving saddle which is 90 degrees to the strings with a slanted bridge attached.
Measurements from under the nut is; 26 3/8" to where the low G sits on the bridge and 26 1/4" to where the high D sits.
Also, same thing occurs when I play up the neck without the capo. The chords just don’t seem to sound right. Would appreciate members valued suggestions as to what may be needed to correct this.

Stay safe and well
Albaman

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

So there are a few potential issues here:

1 - Truss rod needs to be set correctly.
2 - Bridge needs setting.
3 - Nut is simply in the wrong place.

To check the truss rod, press a string down so it’s being held over the first and fifteenth frets. There should be a barely visible gap (0.007-0.010" is a typical range) between the seventh fret and the string.

To set the bridge, use your tuner and check the 12 fret pitch and compare it to the 12th fret harmonic. If the fretted note is sharp, you need to make the string longer, so move the bridge slightly towards away from the fretboard. Do this for both the lowest and highest strings - you should end up with a very slight slant to the bridge, so the highest string is very slightly shorter than the low string.

If you’ve done these, and fretted notes are in tune but open strings aren’t, your nut may be in the wrong place. This isn’t a difficult fix but requires altering your instrument, so this is something I would hand off to a luthier.

Posted by .

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

I can strongly recommend joining the "The Irish Bouzouki" facebook group.

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

As Calum mentioned, it sounds like your bridge is most likely out of place. If your action isn’t too high, then that’s definitely the case. Bending a string makes the tone sharper, and the higher the action, the further you have to bend the string to reach the frets, sharpening the note.

Does your zouk have a floating bridge, or a fixed bridge? If it’s a floating bridge, the thing to do is to get all the strings in tune, and then on each string, test the harmonic at the 12th fret against the fretted string at the 12th fret. (If you’re not familiar with harmonics, they can be created by gently touching the string above the fret, and then removing your finger right as you pluck the string, which sets up two standing waves on the string at a higher pitch. At the 12th fret, both will play exactly one octave above the open string’s tone). If your fretted note is sharper than the harmonic, your bridge needs to be moved back closer to your tailpiece. If the fretted note is flat, you need to move the bridge toward the neck. You should check all of the strings, and see if they’re all off about the same amount. (If not, you may have strings that aren’t too balanced, and you’ll just need to find the best bridge placement you can that gets all the strings as close as possible)

To move a floating bridge on a bouzouki you usually have to loosen the strings somewhat (but not completely slack), and then you can slide the bridge gently while it’s still being held on by the strings. So slide it a couple of millimeters in the direction it needs, then tighten the strings up and check it again. Rinse and repeat…

If your bridge is a fixed bridge, then a luthier will likely need to do some adjustment on it to compensate. Or if your action is too high, and that’s the cause of this, then some tweaking of the truss rod may help lower the action to help, also a good thing for a luthier to do, if you’re not comfortable with doing it.

Good luck!

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

Much obliged for your comments and advice. I will work through all suggestions and will reply further of my success. Bouzouki luthiers in South Aus are like hens teeth. Might have to cut my own teeth at luthing on this instrument.
Stay safe.
Albaman

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

There’s Graham MacDonald in Canberra, which is at least the same continent! But any competent guitar luthier would be fine, it’s exactly the same principles.

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Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

Thank you for the tip Calum. Just remembered a change I made to my bouzouki at time of buying it. Ordered it from Germany while in Cornwall and on arrival I noticed it was strung with octave strings. When I got back to Aus, I just changed the strings to unison. Now I’m wondering if there was something other than the string change that was needed. Hmmm?

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

any decent luthier that works on acoustic guitars will be able to set up a bouzouki. Even Ozz has acoustic guitar luthiers in abundance…

First of all, check the intonation as described above. If your 12th fret harmonic matches the fretted note and your action isn’t unreasonable high, the problem lies with the capo itself. Most likely the capo has too much clamping force, or possibly is made for a radiused fretboard and yours is flat.

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

Albaman, you mentioned "When I got back to Aus, I just changed the strings to unison. Now I’m wondering if there was something other than the string change that was needed."

Switching to unison could increase the tension on the neck, pulling it forward, raising the "action," i.e., the distance between the strings and the neck. The result is that, as you play higher up the neck, the farther you have to bend the string to fret it. So notes become sharper and sharper the higher up the neck you go.

Assuming your bouzouki is capable of handling the increased tension, detuning the strings, tightening the truss rod to lower the action, and retuning the strings would be one solution.

A better idea would be to reach out to the builder for advice about what gauges of unison strings they would recommend.

Meanwhile, I personally would tune the whole bouzouki down a full step and play with a capo at the second fret until I was sure I wasn’t causing lasting damage by putting too much strain on the neck.

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

Switching from octave strings to unison strings doesn’t necessarily increase the tension on the neck, depending on the gauges of the strings. In a perfect setup, all your strings would be about the same tension, regardless of gauge (a thinner string tuned to a higher note can put the same tension on the neck as a fatter string tuned to a lower note…) But it is certainly possible that it is putting more tension on the neck and raising your action.

The other thing that would have changed is the grooves in the bridge and nut, to accommodate fatter strings.

And then bridges are sometimes compensated differently for octave stringing vs. unison. The reason being that even at the same tension, a fatter string will sharpen more than a thinner string when bent the same amount. So on a perfectly compensated bridge, the two strings in an octave pair would be compensated differently. (If you’re not sure what I mean about a compensated bridge, the luthier will often cut notches in the bridge so that some strings are actually a millimeter or two longer than the other ones to compensate for how much they sharpen when bent, when compared to their siblings… The simplest example of this is looking at an acoustic guitar bridge, and while the bridge itself is straight, the saddle is at an angle, with the bass end closer to the tailpiece…) But not every maker does compensated bridges, and usually it’s a small of enough difference that you can find the happy medium…

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

Hi all,
I have done some investigation of your appreciated suggestions. Checked harmonics at 12th fret and the readout on the tuner matched on all strings. Then checked the gap on the 7th fret clamping 1st and 15th fret. Used a strip of folded A4 paper which is estimated between 7-10 thou. Felt as a good fit.

However, I found a couple of noticeable items.

I have a concave fretboard that when measured from the top of the twelfth fret pin, to the top of the outer G string is 5mm (13/64"). Also, the outer unison G string barely sits in the bridge slot , which probably had been cut initially for the thinner octave string that was fitted..
The height of the outer D string measured 4.5 mm.
Should I bed the G string properly into the slot first then re-measure all of the above.?
Is there an option for lowering the action?

Thanking you kindly again
Albaman

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

The harmonics at the 12th will always be in tune with the open string, so you want to make sure you compare the harmonic at the 12th to the fretted note at the 12th, which will tell you if the fretted notes are in tune.

But yes, in general, you want all of the strings to be the same height in the nut (and bridge). So if the fatter strings are sitting higher because they don’t fit in the slot, they will sharpen a bit more when fretted because you are bending them slightly further to reach the fret… In that case, a nut file at the right gauge for the string will help (but you also want to make sure you don’t cut the grooves too deep, or you will get buzzing on your open strings).

As far as lowering the action, there are a few ways to do that. First off, lighter strings will give you lower tension, and tension will tend to pull the neck forward, raising the action. So that can help a bit. Adjusting the truss rod will adjust the relief in the neck, which can end up lowering the action in the middle of the neck a bit. If the instrument has an adjustable height bridge, cranking that down a bit can help. Otherwise, you might need to reset the neck, which is not necessarily a do it yourself task on most bouzoukis. And with all of these adjustments, you’re playing a tight game of trying to get the action low without causing any string buzzing because the action is TOO low.

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

I wouldn’t recommend using the truss rod to adjust the action. Yes, loosening it off will lower the action but that is more a byproduct of lowering the relief and it sounds like the relief doesn’t want to be any lower.

The standard way of lowering the (12th fret) action (the 1st fret action is lowered at the nut) is by lowering the bridge/saddle height. This is usually non reversible (unless the bridge has adjusters) so you have to be pretty sure that’s what you want. For every 0.1mm of lowered action 0.2mm has to come off the bridge/saddle. If the saddle comes out of the bridge (which it should) the easiest way to lower it is by sticking a bit of sandpaper to a flat surface and sanding the bottom of the saddle by moving it backwards and forwards over the sandpaper. A way of lowering the (moving) bridge is to put a bit of sandpaper on the body under the bridge and move the bridge back and forward so that the underside of the bridge gets sanded but the bridge bottom still keeps to the shape of the body top. Bear in mind that a consequence of lowering the action is a reduced break angle over the saddle and associated problems.

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

Thankyou to all members who responded to my post. I have bravely implemented a few suggested corrections. First of all, I nervously tightened the truss rod to reduce the visible uplift between the 1st and about 6th fret which worked to some extent.
Then reset the bridge somewhat, which wasn’t too hard as the movement was restricted by the EQ connection under the bridge.
Set the bouzouki up and checked the intonations at the 12th. Was quite chuffed that is was reading and sounding good.
when finished, the height of the strings at the 12th fret was approx 6mm. I hesitantly decided to remove the bridge, and in two steps shaved 2mm from the bottom. The measurement is now reduced to 3.5 mm at 12th fret.
A fair improvement in sound with no buzz is the result.

Another query that I have is; when I lay my straight edge over the 1st to 12th fret. I still see some neck uplift gap at fret 2, 3 and 4. A size 60 pick fits the gaps.
Should I attempt to tweak the truss rod some more or just be happy with me lot?

Cheers

Albaman

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

A neck under tension will always have a certain amount of S-shape, due to the actions of string, wood, and truss rod. The only way to get rid of it completely is to predict it in advance and shape the neck accordingly before it is tensioned, possible in theory but not normally done in practice.

I would suggest at this point if you’re pleased with what you’ve got, that you leave well alone, and just play the instrument for a month or two, then decide if it needs further tweaking. It’s easy to get lost in endless messing around with things that don’t *really* matter all that much.

Posted by .

Re: Using a capo on my red irish bouzouki ?

Thanks Calum.
I’ll take your comments on board.
I have slight buzz or deadness on the G strings, especially when playing up the FB. I noticed the strings sitting a bit high at the bridge. I have a black bridge inserted into a brown saddle that visually, is difficult to work with when trying to judge the depth and width of the grooves.
I would like to replace the bridge with a white material. Would you have a suggestion as to what I could use ?.

Best Regards
Albaman